Imagine a person who’s underwhelmed by everything you tell him. You ran the mile in five minutes? Big deal. He doesn’t raise an eyebrow for anything over four. You scored a scholarship to Yale? Meh. Was Harvard full? You designed a new car that gets 100 miles to the gallon? Cool, but does it fly?
Odds are you wouldn’t associate with a person like that for very long, but what if you didn’t have a choice? What if you were continually subjected to the dramatic sighing and dismissive shrugs? And what if there were no end in sight?
That’s how Apple must feel when it takes the stage to show off a new product. If that gadget does anything less than carve out a new niche, or at least revolutionize an existing one, and simultaneously cure cancer, the company’s criticized by throngs of media and consumers who can’t believe they wasted their time on such uninspired crap.
Not that Apple, now the most valuable company in the world, needs our sympathy. Nor does the negativity seem to affect the company’s bottom line. But it doesn’t deserve such ruthless criticism, and I have five words for the unimpressed crowd holding them to that insane standard: What more do you want?
Today, exactly a week after Apple unveiled its latest iPad, a quick Google search turns up loads of articles that disparage the new tablet for its so-what factor. Apple took the easy route, they say. It turned its back on innovation and offered up a tablet that resembles its predecessor everywhere it counts.
Except it didn’t and they’re full of shit.
Apple stepped up its newest product in almost every way. The new iPad’s Retina display has four times the pixels of the iPad 2 and a higher resolution than anything else the company offers; its A5X processor has a quad-core GPU that delivers four times the performance; RAM has swelled to 1GB; a 5-megapixel rear camera replaces 720p optics; Bluetooth 4.0’s in play; 4G LTE connectivity’s on the table; and a new, more-powerful battery means all those specs won’t have users running for the nearest outlet any sooner.
So what gives? Why aren’t more people batting an eye at nearly across-the-board improvements to a tablet that already had the industry by the balls?
To my mind, the murmurs can be traced back to two things: a rumor mill that nailed every detail of the new iPad ahead of its launch, which, of course, eliminated the wow factor; and an audience that’s been spoiled to the point of feeling entitled to revolutionary products at every turn. The first point is fairly obvious, so let’s examine the second.
Consumers and media alike have come to expect the impossible from Cupertino. Whoever holds the mic at Apple’s semi-annual events, whether it’s Tim Cook or Jonathan Ive or any one of a number of senior engineers, that person is expected to announce something completely unprecedented. He owes it to his audience, they’d have you believe.
It doesn’t matter to those sitting in judgement that such a pace is unsustainable, that no company, no matter how innovative or full of brilliant minds, could come up with something totally new on a consistent basis. And even if it could, it would be raked over the coals for it. And rightly so. Because consumers would never have a chance to get their heads around a novel product before another one dropped in their laps.
Why, then, do they ask that of Apple and skewer the company when it can’t deliver?
Put simply, they’ve been spoiled by Apple’s major innovations. They remember the iPods, iPhones, and iPads, but they forget that those products were introduced years apart, and that more often than not, Apple, as does any company, touches up its existing lineup.
They’ve also enshrouded Apple in myth so thoroughly that the company can’t possibly live up to its legend. A story about its insistence on secrecy and security, for instance, leads to speculation that it must be hatching something otherworldly, and before you know it, Apple’s up there with the Golden Goose, and One Infinite Loop’s revered as if it were Willy Wonka’s fanciful chocolate factory.
But it’s not those things, and it’s unfair to measure it as if it were. It’s better and fairer to measure Apple and its brainchildren against the competition, and when you do that, when you compare it to the Sonys and Samsungs and Googles, it’s hard to come away unimpressed.
Not that I’m holding my breath for that day. Unless I’ve missed my guess, Apple’s time under an unforgiving microscope has only just begun.
And I suppose that’s strangely fitting. Apple’s audience has become as critical as the company’s late founder.
“Steve, I spent all year on this, what do you think?”